Image Retouching: What is it and do you need it? / by Timberly Maddox

Image retouching is the art of editing professionally processed images to create a more pleasing photo by evening skin tone, eliminating blemishes, whitening teeth, and more.  In extreme cases, such as advertising, the proportions of the eyes, lips, waist and hips, and and extremities may be altered to create a "hyper-realistic" image.  In this post, we will only cover basic retouching (removing skin flaws, teeth whitening, etc.).  While extensive retouching can be desirable, I want all of my images to reflect what you actually look like on your best day - when you are experiencing a breakout, you haven't been drinking teeth staining substances such as coffee or wine, and you got enough sleep the night before your session.

Today's camera sensors are excellent at capturing detail, which can make a compelling composition with sharp focus on the eyes, but will also capture not so flattering details - acne scarring, under-eye bags, etc. - in high definition.  The techniques used to process your images can minimize some of these issues, but will not eliminate them altogether.  This is where image retouching can take a beautiful photograph from great to amazing.

So, is image retouching right for your photograph?  That depends on how you plan to use your image.  If you plan on displaying your photo in large format, such as a 30 x 40 wall hanging, then retouching your image is highly recommended.  Enlarging your image can emphasize minor flaws that are not readily apparent in person.  Image retouching is also recommended for headshots, which are used to sell yourself to potential employers or clients.  People tend to make snap judgements based on image and a negative first impression can be difficult to overcome.  A poor headshot could cost you clients or a coveted role before you even have the opportunity to speak with anyone.  Image retouching is available for all portrait sessions and is included in all headshot sessions photographed by Timberly Maddox Photography.

After all of that, let's compare the difference between an image that is straight out of the camera, one that has been professionally processed, and one that has been professionally processed and retouched.  (Click on each image to enlarge.)

This image is straight out of the camera - no developing of the raw image files.

This image has been professionally processed - raw image file has been manipulated to produce more true to life color tones and shadows.

This image has been retouched after processing to even skin tone, remove blemishes, and whiten teeth.